Tuesday, August 21, 2007

George III And His Scandalous Siblings

Andrew and I have also been reading “A Royal Affair: George III And His Scandalous Siblings” by Stella Tillyard.

This bit of Royal History is mostly familiar to those who follow the subject. George III had eight siblings, and his siblings did not share his devotion to duty and family, as is already well known.

The book is almost hijacked by the story of Caroline Mathilde, a younger sister of George III married off to the young and irresponsible King Of Denmark. This particular Royal Alliance was not a successful one, and the breakup of the marriage almost resulted in a war between Britain and Denmark. Caroline Mathilde’s adventures may have been the most interesting of all George III’s siblings, but her story is ultimately little more than daytime drama in a royal setting.

From a lasting perspective, the adventures of George III’s siblings resulted in The Royal Marriages Act Of 1772, still on the books today. This law prevents members of The Royal Family from marrying without the sovereign’s consent until they have attained the age of 25. Upon reaching the age of 25, members of The Royal Family are required to apply for permission to marry to The Privy Council, which has twelve months from date of application to issue a decision.

Even though several of George III’s siblings had married commoners or Catholics, which The Royal Marriages Act Of 1772 was designed to nullify, by 1775 all but three of George III’s siblings had died. George III was to survive for another 45 years, and this law designed to control his siblings was to live on far beyond its original intended purpose. It was most recently invoked to prevent the marriage of Princess Margaret Rose to Peter Townsend in 1955.

Why did Andrew and I buy this book? It was reviewed favorably in The Times.

We both love to read The Times. The political and foreign policy columns in The Times are unmissable, and there is nothing comparable in U.S. newspapers: stylish, thoughtful, learned, provoking, and mostly free from cant. By comparison, the columns in The New York Times are merely embarrassing.

Alas, The Times review of the George III book failed to note that the book was largely soap opera. Andrew and I would not have purchased the book if the review had been more forthcoming about the true nature of the book.

George III was a very interesting monarch, although he is given little credit as a successful ruler on either side of the Atlantic. Although Britain lost its American colonies during his reign, it did emerge unscathed from The French Revolution and it did win The Napoleonic Wars, at sea and on land, while George III was on the throne. By 1820, the year of George III’s death, Britain had established its supremacy as Europe’s greatest power, a place it was to hold well into the next century.


  1. Two masterfully written reviews in a row, Joshua!

    You know, I don't normally flatter people unless I REALLY mean it, but, have you ever considered book criticism for a living. You certainly have an innate gift for it.

    For the most part, your reviews of these two snoozefests, I assume, are way more compelling than those two books.


  2. Hey, Chanteuse.

    Thanks for the kind words, but I would not make a good professional book reviewer.

    Take these two books. Why were they even written? The Robespierre book is a rehash of other, better books. The George III book is royal soap opera, dangerously close to Kitty Kelly territory.

    There are some books I would like to write, however. But first I will go to law school.

    Thanks again for your kind note.

    How was that Sarah Bernhardt biography?


  3. Kitty Kelley, not Kitty Kelly.

    At least I spelled Sarah Bernhardt right (I think).

  4. Oh, hey, Josh. The Sarah bio was terrific.

    And, yes, you spelled the divine's name correctly.